The Room: Why The “Citizen Kane Of Bad Movies” Is Actually Great Cinema

The last Friday of every month, in a small independent theater, a screening of a ten-year-old film is shown. Once a month, twelve times a year, Tommy Wiseau’s The Room is shown in a dusty cinema with bad popcorn and stale beer. In the lobby you see a “Viewer’s Guide to The Room,” outlining the bizarre traditions surrounding the movie, such as plastic spoon throwing, various chants, and never-ending heckling. The film attracts a small, boisterous crowd at the 11 o’clock showtime, often drunk. What attracts these people, and these traditions? Is The Room so profound that it warrants so many screenings? Of course not; it’s terrible. Filled with narrative and technical flaws, The Room is objectively one of the worst movies of all time. Yet you don’t see Citizen Kane or Rear Window being screened monthly. What makes The Room different?

In Roger Ebert’s “little rule book” for film critics, the first two rules are as follows: “Advise the readers well… we must tell the readers what we ourselves love or hate… Provide a sense of the experience. No matter what your opinion, every review should give some idea of what the reader would experience in actually seeing the film…” Ebert’s philosophy (opposite his idol Pauline Kael) was to inform the reader not whether or not the film is good or bad, but whether or not it worked for him. Following this ideology while sitting with ten shit-faced twenty-year-olds watching The Room as plastic spoons reign down on you — you come to the conclusion that The Room — while not “good” — is one of the “best” movies of all time.

Of course, that can’t be true! The camera can’t even stay in focus! The acting is terrible and the story is pretentious! What’s more important than content? than technique? The answer goes back to one of the first publicly screened films, The Arrival of a Train at La Ciotat Station, an uncut, 50-second film, documenting — as the title suggests — an everyday train stopping at a station. Nothing spectacular, but in 1895 the audience was astonished. It created a visceral, physical reaction. It was scary, awesome, and entertaining. Is it then a bad film? How can it be when the audience had that much emotion towards it? Shouldn’t that be what a film sets out to do? create emotions in its audience? If not, then why does a witless film like Furious 7 pull in $800 million dollars? Why did Fifty Shades of Grey pull in $550 million? It’s because these films cause reactions in their audiences: entertaining reactions, stimulating reactions. Does it matter if these emotions are from a mind-numbing spectacle or borderline fantasy porn? The audience (the box office) wouldn’t think so. These movies aren’t good; they’re stimulating, and aren’t the best films just that?

When The Room was first released, it prompted many viewers to ask for their money back, causing theaters to begin putting up signs reading “NO REFUNDS.” This is because film-goers had never seen anything like it (meaning they’ve never seen anything that bad). All masterpiece’s have their naysayers. For instance, the “it’s boring” backlash against Citizen Kane. Initial viewers didn’t like The Room because it was “bad,” and some viewers didn’t like Citizen Kane because it was “boring,” but just as Citizen Kane always makes it way on to the greatest films of all time lists, The Room found its way to an audience, and subsequently a culture.

Like Ebert, I’ll only speak for myself. Watching The Room was the greatest experience I’ve ever had in a cinema. I’ve never laughed harder. I’ve never been so engrossed. I’ve never had that much fun watching a movie. With an open mind, and a good atmosphere, The Room can be an entertaining, emotion filled experience — otherwise known as a good movie.

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About Forrest Allan (19 Articles)
Self-loathing narcissist.

16 Comments on The Room: Why The “Citizen Kane Of Bad Movies” Is Actually Great Cinema

  1. “Did you just throw my cat out the window?”

    — That comment doesn’t really fit. If this post had trashed your favorite flick, that would work as a metaphor.

    I know, but I’ve been waiting to use that for weeks, and I couldn’t wait any longer. And it does fit, if you really think about it. It’s called cosmic irony.

    — No, it’s not.

    Okay, I lied.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. As someone known to enjoy some “rotten” movies, I really appreciate this post. Some of my favorite cinematic experiences are with bad movies. Great write-up.

    Like

  3. I must MUST put this experience on my bucket list. I am serious! I’ve never even heard of The Room before! Who knew there was this whole subculture?

    Thank you for expanding my horizons. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. As it turns out, I just finished the tell-all book about THE ROOM and savored every page. Even though I’m a classic film buff (maybe even snob), there’s nothing greater than enjoying a misguided attempt at making great cinema. Tommy thought he was making the next Streetcar and that he failed so hilariously makes it a fantastic movie. Like you, I cannot get enough of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. LifeForce. Great bad movie with cringe inducing dialogue. I can watch it over and over. There’s something pleasant and cosy about something so bad.

    Like

  6. I don’t want to sound snobbish and, certainly, not sarcastic, but I think that The Room is essential viewing for every passionate cinephile. Plus, Greg Sestero’s book, “The Disaster Artist”, kind of makes you see the movie, and the peculiar man that is Tommy Wiseau, in a different light.

    Like

    • After Aaron and now you suggested it, “The Disaster Artist” has quickly sprung to the top of my Amazon wishlist. I even (sort’ve) feel bad I haven’t ALREADY read it (especially after being such a proponent of the film).

      Thanks,
      JFA

      Like

  7. I saw “My Son My Son What Have Ye Done” by Werner Herzog in the small theater at the Musicbox in Chicago with a bunch of people who knew how to really enjoy it. We laughed until we cried and I don’t think I’ve ever had that much fun at the theater– except maybe at the same theater watching “Grief” which starred my friend Craig Chester. I was the only woman there and maybe one of two straight people and it was FABULOUS! Bad movies can be the best– when a shared experience.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’ve experienced ‘The Room’ countless times and everytime has been with a group of friends, or even ‘The Room’ virgins if you will. After the first viewing I was in stitches, eager to hear their thoughts. Many shrugged it off until 2 weeks later when they suggested we watch it again. Always game for a ‘Room’ party one viewing turned into 5 in the space of four months. Timeless (Cult) Classic

    Like

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